Abbas tells Ashton: Ready to negotiate after UN bid

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — President Mahmoud Abbas told EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Thursday that his UN bid aims to preserve the two-state solution, official media reported.

At a meeting in Ramallah during Ashton’s tour of the region, Abbas assured her he was ready to negotiate with Israel after the bid to upgrade Palestine’s status at the UN General Assembly next month.

The two state solution is disappearing as Israel persists with settlement-building and ignoring international resolutions, Abbas warned, according to PA news agency Wafa.

Ashton assured the president of the EU’s support for the two-state solution as the basis for resolving the conflict.

On Wednesday, Ashton met with Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, who threatened “difficult and far-reaching consequences” if Abbas proceeds with the bid.

Lieberman has repeatedly criticized Abbas’ refusal to negotiate with Israel until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agrees to freeze settlements. Lieberman is a settler.

If the UN bid succeeds, Palestine’s “observer entity” status would change to “observer state”, granting access to bodies such as the International Criminal Court.

The Palestinians need a simple majority for the upgrade, but predict that between 150 and 170 nations will vote in favor.

( / 25.10.2012)

Residents: Syrian army shells Damascus district after truce

AMMAN (Reuters) — Syrian troops stationed on a mountain overlooking Damascus fired artillery barrages late on Thursday at a southern neighborhood of the capital, witnesses said, hours after Syria’s army command accepted a UN-proposed ceasefire.

The shelling targeted Hajar al-Aswad, a poor neighborhood inhabited by refugees from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Rebels have been using the heights to launch operations against forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, several activists and residents of the capital said.

( / 25.10.2012)

Netanyahu en Lieberman als rechts blok samen naar verkiezingen in Israël

Benjamin Netanyahu (links) en Avigdor Lieberman.


De conservatieve Likoedpartij van de Israëlische premier Benjamin Netanyahu en de extreemrechtse partij Israel Beitenu (Ons Huis Israël) van Buitenlandminister Avigdor Lieberman zullen bij de verkiezingen begin volgend jaar op een gemeenschappelijke lijst aantreden. Dat kondigden Netanyahu en Lieberman vanavond samen aan.

Het samengaan “geeft ons de kracht om Israël voor externe bedreigingen te beschermen en de mogelijkheid een economische verandering tot stand te brengen”, verklaarde de regeringsleider tijdens een door de televisie uitgezonden persconferentie.

De vervroegde parlementsverkiezingen zullen op 22 januari plaatsvinden. Volgens peilingen mag Netanyahu op zijn herverkiezing rekenen.

( / 25.10.2012)


What is the meaning and significance of the Day of Arafat?

Plain of Arafat Day of Arafat Mount of Mercy

Pilgrims gather at the Plain of Arafat during the Hajj.

Question: What is the meaning and significance of the Day of Arafat?
Answer: The 9th day of Dhul-Hijjah (the Month of Hajj) is called the Day of Arafat. This day is the culminating event of the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.The Day of Arafat falls on the 2nd day of pilgrimage rituals. At dawn of this day, nearly 2 million Muslim pilgrims will make their way from Mecca to a nearby hillside and plain called Mount Arafat and the Plain of Arafat. It was from this site that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, gave his famous Farewell Sermon in his final year of life.

During the entire day, from dawn until sunset, Muslim pilgrims stand in earnest supplication and devotion, praying for God’s abundant forgiveness. Tears are shed readily as those who gather make repentance and seek God’s mercy, recite words of prayer and remembrance, and gather together as equals before their Lord. Muslims around the world who are not participating in the pilgrimage often spend this day in fasting and devotion.

( / 25.10.2012)

Rachel Corrie Awarded LennonOno Grant for Peace

American peace activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in 2003, was awarded on Tuesday the 2012 LennonOno Grant for Peace, according to a press release by the Rachel Corrie Foundation.

The award was presented by Yoko Ono in Reykjavik, Iceland, to Corrie’s parents, Craig and Cindy, who accepted it on their daughter’s behalf. The event marks the birthdays of artist John Lennon and his son Sean.

Rachel Corrie was a 23-year-old American peace activist and human rights defender from Olympia, Washington, who was crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer March 16, 2003, as she stood nonviolently to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home in Rafah, Gaza.

In August, a court in Haifa, Israel, dismissed the Corrie family’s wrongful death civil lawsuit against the State of Israel for Rachel’s killing. The verdict was widely condemned as setting dangerous precedent regarding protection of civilians, and putting at serious risk human rights defenders in war zones and armed conflict situations.

In the official announcement of the biennial award, IMAGINE PEACE noted the work of the Rachel Corrie Foundation to which the monetary grant prize has been given.

“In the wake of her killing, the Rachel Corrie Foundation continues the work that Rachel Corrie began. The Foundation conducts programs that foster connections between people, that build understanding, respect, and appreciation for differences, and that promote cooperation within and between local and global communities. The Foundation encourages and supports grassroots efforts in pursuit of human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice, which they view as pre-requisites for world peace,” said IMAGINE PEACE.

“Rachel would be greatly surprised and humbled by this recognition,” Cindy Corrie said after receiving the award. “Her hope would be that it could somehow contribute to bringing people together to work passionately for justice, and to do so with the utmost respect for the rights and lives of all human beings.”

Rachel’s father, Craig Corrie, added: “We are grateful that Ms. Ono has chosen to recognize our daughter in such a wonderful way. Rachel must be smiling somewhere to imagine her memory linked in any way with that of John Lennon. Perhaps they smile together.”

Yoko Ono, the Corries, and other LennonOno Grant for Peace recipients participated following the award ceremony in the annual lighting of the IMAGINE PEACE TOWER on the island of Viðey in Iceland.

Ono urged people worldwide to join her in spirit as she lights the IMAGINE PEACE TOWER in honor of all activists – past, present, and future – and to let the power of light become a collective expression of the desire for peace and harmony on the planet.

( / 25.10.2012)

Malik optimistic about Malala’s health


ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said that Malala Yousafzai would soon recover and come back to Pakistan, said a statement issued here on Thursday.

According to the statement, parents of the injured Swati girl met the Interior Minister before leaving for UK.

Malik dubbed the shooting of Malala Yousafzai as an attack on Pakistan and assured her parents of the girl’s security upon her arrival in Pakistan.

“Malala has started speaking; entire nation is praying for her,” he said and added that the President and the government were taking keen interest in Malala’s recovery.

Meanwhile, sources told Geo News that Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai left for Birmingham along with his wife via Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight.

( / 25.10.2012)

Palestinian government in Gaza demands immediate Arab League intervention to stop Israeli aggression


Ismail Haniyeh has called on the Arab League to intervene immediately to put an end to "Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people.Ismail Haniyeh has called on the Arab League to intervene immediately to put an end to “Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.

The Palestinian government in Gaza headed by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has called on the Arab League to intervene immediately to put an end to “Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people and to stop its aggression on the Gaza Strip”. Commenting in a written statement, the head of the government press office also called on international institutions and human rights organisations to stand up to their responsibilities for protecting civilians who are subjected to frequent raids by Israeli land and air forces.

“The Israelis are trying to score electoral points at the cost of Palestinian blood,” said Ihab Ghussein. “The victims of the occupation forces’ apparent escalation in Gaza several days ago and ongoing attacks include four martyrs and eight wounded in a series of raids on the Gaza Strip yesterday,” he noted.

“This follows Israeli threats of a major military strike on Gaza,” added Ghussein, “and proves that the criminal mentality behind such moves is attempting to push the Gaza Strip towards further escalation in which yet more innocent people will be killed.”

The government spokesman pointed out that this Israeli aggression came just hours after the Emir of Qatar’s visit to the Gaza Strip. “This suggests that the occupation authorities are enraged by the success of the Palestinian government in Gaza – after years of a blockade and aggression – to break the political and economic siege on its land.” He praised the steadfastness of the Palestinian people in the face of this unjust assault, and praised Palestinian resistance, “which defends the people against Israeli aggression”.

Since Tuesday’s landmark visit by the Emir of Qatar, four Palestinians have been killed and several others wounded in a series of raids carried out by Israeli aircraft. The Palestinian resistance responded by firing dozens of rockets at the military sites and settlements adjacent to the Gaza Strip, where five Israelis were reported to have been injured.

Earlier this week, Britain’s Minister with responsibility for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Alistair Burt, told MPs, “Over 50 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza between 7-9 October, following Israeli airstrikes that killed two suspected Palestinian militants and wounded 11 civilians.” (Emphasis added.)

Despite his own admission that rocket attacks from Gaza are Palestinian responses to Israeli airstrikes, Burt added, “We have condemned indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel and continue to urge all sides to exercise restraint and prevent civilian casualties and loss of life.”

Commentators have pointed out that such duplicity virtually gives Israel the green light to do whatever it wants, something apparently picked up by Israel’s Minister of Defence. Ehud Barak warned that his country will respond to the Palestinian resistance “through the proper method and time”.

( / 25.10.2012)

Israeli TV admits: No rockets were ever fired from UNRWA schools in Gaza during “Cast Lead”


On 17 January 2009, Israeli forces bombed a school run by the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip.

Another staple of Israeli propangada has been busted, as Israeli television has – years late – admitted that claims rockets were fired from UNRWA schools in Gaza were false.

UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, issued a statement yesterday, in eastern occupied Jerusalem, that says in part:

Israel’s highest-rating news programme, Channel Two News, has published a statement correcting false claims that rockets were fired from schoolsoperated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) during the Gaza war in 2008-2009. The statement makes clear that Israeli officials themselves acknowledged that such claims were false and thatthere was no evidence to support them.

“We heard this misinformation during the war when there was shelling on and around the Agency’s schools and our main warehouse in Gaza”, said UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness, “but Israeli officials made it clear to the UN during the war itself that they knew claims about militants in UNRWA installations were completely false. Constant, unchecked repetition of this misinformation has been very damaging to the Agency and has produced some very poor and biased journalism, which I will continue to confront. This is the third time in just a few months that a major news organisation has issued a public retraction because of false information about UNRWA.”

The UNRWA statement also notes that during its offensive, Israel destroyed other UN facilities, including warehouses containing millions of dollars worth of desperately needed relief supplies.

Systematic targeting of Gaza’s schools?

In part, the constant propaganda refrain must have been an attempt to justify what can only have been systematic targeting of Palestinian schools by Israel.

As a 2009 report (PDF) by Oxfam, Amnesty International and 14 other European human rights and aid agencies – one year after “Operation Cast Lead” – stated:

During the military offensive, 18 schools were destroyed, (including eight government schools, two private schools and eight kindergartens) and at least280 were damaged. Six of the destroyed government schools were in North Gaza alone, affecting almost 9,000 students who had to relocate to other schools.


On 17 January 2009, Israeli forces bombed a school run by the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip.

The report, Failing Gaza: No building, No recovery, No more excuses, added:

  • There are 640 schools in Gaza – 221 UNRWA schools, 383 government schools and 36 private schools – serving more than 440,000 students.
  • 88% of UNRWA schools and 82% of government schools operate on a double shift. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some schools are currently operating three shifts per day.
  • 164 students and 12 teachers from government schools were killed during the military offensive. A further 454 students and five teachers were injured. 86 children and three teachers from UNRWA schools were killed and a further 402 students and 14 teachers were injured.

What this means is that with 18 schools destroyed and 280 damaged – 46 percent –almost half – of all schools in Gaza were hit by the Israeli army.

If this was not deliberate, then the Israeli army, which claims to be “the most moral army in the world,” is also one of the most poorly trained and inaccurate.


On 17 January 2009, Israeli forces bombed a school run by the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip.

( / 25.10.2012)

Sudan-Iran ties eyed as Israel says Khartoum aids Gaza arms smuggling via Egypt

Sudanese demonstrators hold banners and chant anti-Israeli slogans during a protest in Khartoum, following the factory blast. (AFP)

Sudanese demonstrators hold banners and chant anti-Israeli slogans during a protest in Khartoum, following the factory blast.

Sudan’s links to Iran came under scrutiny on Thursday after Khartoum accused Israel of being behind a deadly missile strike on a military factory in the heart of the capital.

The cabinet met in urgent session late on Wednesday after the government said evidence pointed to Israeli involvement in the alleged attack at around midnight on Tuesday on the Yarmouk military manufacturing facility in southern Khartoum.

Sudan accused the Jewish state of a similar raid 18 months ago.

Analysts, however, said they had not ruled out an accidental cause for the latest blast.

Israeli officials have expressed concern about arms smuggling through Sudan and have long accused Khartoum of serving as a base of support for operatives from the Islamist Hamas movement that rules the Gaza Strip.

Israel refused all comment on Khartoum’s allegations, but Amos Gilad, a top Israeli defense official, called Sudan “a dangerous terrorist state,” according to AFP.

Gilad, director of policy and political-military affairs at the defense ministry, refused to reply directly when asked whether Israel was involved in the attack, which Sudan said was conducted by four radar-evading aircraft.

“The regime is supported by Iran and it serves as a route for the transfer, via Egyptian territory, of Iranian weapons to Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists,” he told his country’s army radio on Thursday.

“Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is regarded a war criminal.”

Gilad made clear that Sudan should be considered fair game — an enemy like Hamas and Iran — and that Cairo’s interests were also at stake, according to Reuters.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region where a rebellion began in 2003.

His cabinet issued no statement after Wednesday’s late meeting, where Bashir joined anti-Israel protesters in chanting “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest).

About 300 demonstrators denounced the United States and carried banners calling for Israel to be wiped off the earth.

Jonah Leff, of Small Arms Survey, a Swiss-based independent research project, said the project has documented the presence of a drone, landmines and other Iranian weapons in Sudan but he thinks they were acquired directly from Iran rather than being locally manufactured.

“There’s a lot of speculation that Iran has provided technical assistance to the Sudanese for their weapons manufacturing but I haven’t been able to confirm that they’re producing any Iranian weapons,” he said.

On a visit to Tehran last August, Bashir described the relationship between Sudan and Iran as “deeply rooted.”

Leff identified Yarmouk as part of Sudan’s Military Industry Corporation, which claims to produce a variety of weapons from pistols to battle tanks.

“They’re highly secretive… It’s hard to know what exactly they’re producing and what is propaganda,” Leff said.

Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman told reporters on Wednesday that the factory made “traditional weapons.”

Nearby residents told AFP an aircraft or missile had flown overhead shortly before the area exploded in flames, sending bursts of white light into the night sky.

Sudan called on the U.N. Security Council to condemn Israel for what its envoy, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, called “a blatant violation of the concept of peace and security” and the U.N. charter.

On Wednesday, before officials accused Israel, the governor of Khartoum state Abdul Rahman al-Khider dismissed speculation that “other reasons” caused the explosion, which he said happened in a storeroom.

A diplomatic source said “the human factor” — a possible accidental cause — should not be ruled out, although Sudanese officials are taking allegations of Israeli involvement seriously.

Leff said it is just as likely that the Sudanese are blaming Israel to avoid embarrassment after an accidental blast.

“I wouldn’t expect Sudan to have all the necessary safeguards in place to protect its ammunition depots,” which is a common deficiency in Africa, he said.

In April last year, Sudan said it had irrefutable evidence that Israeli attack helicopters carried out a strike on a car south of Port Sudan.

That incident mirrored a similar attack by foreign aircraft on a truck convoy reportedly laden with weapons in eastern Sudan in January 2009.

A non-Israeli source briefed on the incident said the air strike focused on the main open area between the plant’s main buildings, leaving open the possibility the target was specific personnel or production lines, rather than the whole complex.

Given the some 1,900 km (1,200 mile) distance between Israel and Sudan, some Israeli commentators saw in the alleged raid a warning to Iran, whose similarly remote nuclear facilities the Netanyahu government has hinted it could attack should diplomatic efforts to shut them down fail.

Alex Fishman, senior defense analyst for Israel’s top-selling newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, dubbed the Sudan raid a “live-fire practice run” for Iran.

But the Israeli ex-official, who has an extensive military background, was skeptical about comparing a fenced, open-air Khartoum factory with antiquated air defenses to Iran’s dug-in nuclear facilities.

The ex-official also noted the further difference between flying along the Red Sea toward Sudan, an international aviation corridor, to the prospect of Israeli jets reaching Iran through the unfriendly skies of Arab states.

“Israel isn’t ‘signaling’ to Iran, just as it’s not ‘signaling’ to the terrorists in Sinai,” the ex-official said. “Whatever actions might be taken in Sudan are taken to counter a real, immediate threat.”

Though attacks on Israel by Sinai jihadis have been mainly with small arms, there have been occasional short-range rocket launches and Israeli officials worry about possible attempts to down airliners with shoulder-fired missiles.

( / 25.10.2012)

UN independent expert calls for boycott of businesses profiting from Israeli settlements

25 October 2012 – A United Nations independent expert today called on the world body’s General Assembly, as well as civil society, to take action against Israeli and international businesses that are profiting from Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.

“My main recommendation is that the businesses highlighted in the report – as well as the many other businesses that are profiting from the Israeli settlement enterprise – should be boycotted, until they bring their operations into line with international human rights and humanitarian law and standards,” the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, said in a news release issued as he presented a report on his work to the Assembly.

Highlighting the activities of companies such as Caterpillar Incorporated of the United States, Veolia Environment of France, G4S of the United Kingdom, the Dexia Group of Belgium, Ahava of Israel, the Volvo Group of Sweden, the Riwal Holding Group of the Netherlands, Elbit Systems of Israel, Hewlett Packard of the USA, Mehadrin of Israel, Motorola of the USA, Assa Abloy of Sweden, and Cemex of Mexico, the Special Rapporteur noted that a wide range of Israeli and international businesses are involved in the establishment and maintenance of the Israeli settlements.

“All Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have been established in clear violation of international law,” said Mr. Falk.

“Yet today Israeli settlements control over 40 percent of the West Bank and between 500,000 and 600,000 Israeli citizens are living in Palestinian territory,” he added. “In the last 12 months alone, the settler population has increased by over 15,000 persons.”

He drew the Assembly’s attention to developing international law and standards concerning businesses and human rights, including the UN Global Compact and the UN Guiding Principles on Businesses and Human Rights.

“The principles outlined in the Global Compact are clear,” Mr. Falk said. “Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights and ensure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.”

The Global Compact is a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. The Guiding Principles, endorsed by the Human Rights Council, provide a global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity.

Mr. Falk also noted guidance developed by the International Committee of the Red Cross that points to the prospect of corporate and individual criminal responsibility for violations committed during a situation of armed conflict.

“In short, businesses should not breach international humanitarian law provisions. Nor should they be complicit in any breaches. If they do, they may be subject to criminal or civil liability. And this liability can be extended to individual employees of such businesses,” the Special Rapporteur said in presenting his report.

Mr. Falk noted that he had written to all the businesses mentioned in his report, and that positive responses were received from some of them.

“It is encouraging to be informed that Assa Abloy has moved its Mul-T-Locks factory from the West Bank to Israel, and that the Dexia Group, G4S, and Cemex are looking for ways to bring their operations into line with their commitments under the UN Global Compact,” he added.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not United Nations staff, nor are they paid for their work.

( / 25.10.2012)